Friday, August 20, 2004

Song Of Solomon Observations

I always like to investigate difficult issues in the scripture. My family and I have this understanding that if you bring a difficult Bible question my way, I will research and do my best to answer a question. So I'm asked about, 1 Corinthians 15:29 "Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?" I don't have all the answers but I enjoy researching and finding answers. I don't think I know for certain what "baptized for the dead" means for sure, but I have done some good research on the passage. One of the passages that has been difficult for many Christians to interpret is Song of Solomon. You would think that it is a love song and we all know about those so... Well, there are a variety of reasons why people don't take it in a straightforward fashion. For one, why is it included as scripture if there is not some deeper meaning other than a love song? Another issue is how do we apply it to the Christian? While many people have taken it in some symbolic way, in recent years more interpreters are taking it as a love song. I read The Song of Solomon (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by G. Lloyd Carr, D.J. Wiseman. I do like reading commentaries. In some ways I was surprised what I learned by reading this commentary. Perhaps I started out reading the commentary because it dealt with a difficult passage to interpret, but I ended up learning other stuff.

There are certain genres of books sold at the Christian bookstores. There are those books on how to improve your marriage. What I found in Song of Solomon was quite different from the advise in those marriage books. Given that my good friend the Jollyblogger is writing his series on The Purpose Driven Sex Life, I thought I would respond with my own blog entry on Song Of Solomon.

Romance Is About Imagination Not Biology

There is a lot of analogies and similes in Song of Solomon. I don't think that is just a literary issue. It is that humans are made for relationships, and a part of that is romantic relationships. If you read some of the Christian books like Ed Wheat's books or Tim La Haye's books, you might think biology was the big issue. I think there is a desire to somehow sanctify the romantic relationships via biological science.

We are made by God.
God made us biological creatures.
God said that the biological aspect of our being is good.
Therefore, we can talk about sex without blushing.

There is some truth to this syllogism, however, this syllogism is not the main message of any passage in scripture. It is one of the major ways to explain sexual relations in the Christian literature on the market today. If we are going to discuss an issue that the scripture has little to say about, we often must discuss foundational issues and reason from those issues. However, when we have a topic that is discussed directly, why should our major issues be different than those of scripture? This is an issue that is discussed directly in Song of Solomon.

Sex education in the American public school system has defined the boundaries of the topic. It is a discussion of biology. This can be used to make the whole discussion a issue of biological facts and does not involve morality. (I can hear the attitudes and voices of teachers from my youth, "If someone wants to bring up that side issue of morality we will address it of course all in the spirit of open discussion and freedom".) At its best, the biological approach helps a person with information so that he or she understands cause and effect, and so that he or she is not manipulated by someone with more information than himself. At its worst, the biological approach inundates a child with information that he or she should not use for a number of years and lowers natural inhibitions that should help to protect the child from predators.

The Song of Solomon addresses the issue of romantic love. The issue at stake is not sex or biology, but chemistry between Solomon and his lover. Of course I mean the spark between the husband and wife, not bio-chemical reactions. Instead of a how-to book, the scripture gives us a love poem. Perhaps there is wisdom that some things are "better caught than taught". The mind, imagination, and thought life are the most important aspects of the romantic relationship. The husband-wife lovers are to be enamored with one another. It is exciting. This excitement is not a mere arousal of a biological response. They can't stop thinking about one another.

Community Support Of The Relationship

Something I did not expect to find in Song of Solomon is an aspect where the community rejoices in relationship of Solomon and his lover. Romantic relationships are both extremely private and at the same time something that is really quite public. In Song of Solomon there are those who sort of cheer on the relationship of the couple. The NIV puts them under the heading of friends.

We rejoice and delight in you;
we will praise your love more than wine. Song of Solomon 1:4b

And there are several other passages that come from the voice of these friends. The rejoicing of the community is a part of the relationship. Bad manifestations of this aspect of romantic relationships would be things like self-appointed matchmakers and busybodies. Voyeurism would be another bad manifestation of this aspect of the romantic relationship. Good manifestations would be rejoicing at a wedding with the couple. Telling a young man who just became engaged how blessed and fortunate he is. Telling a couple who is celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary how they make such a handsome couple.

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